Judging Eland


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Oct 1, 2007
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Judging Eland

The Eland is the largest species of antelope in Africa and one of its' most sought after spiral horned trophies. Additionally these immense animals are often hard earned trophies for sport hunters which makes it that much more close to the heart of many who have hunted them.

For the sake of this post I am referring to Common Eland, but the criteria here applies equally well to the subspecies that fall under the category of Common Eland which are Cape Eland, Livingstone Eland and East African Eland.

When discussing Eland horn measurement here, I refer to horn length for a Eland in it's simplest form which is taking the measurement of the longest horn from the base along the top of the spiral ridge to the tip only. This, of course, is a basic method but for a primer on How To Measure Your Trophies you can read AfricaHunting.com article by clicking here.

I should start by saying that being able to consistently and accurately judge Eland trophy size and quality can be more challenging than one might first imagine and the most reliable way to get the trophy that you are seeking is to heed the advice of your Professional Hunter.

While judging Eland, body appearance plays a big role and is the easiest way to rapidly assess at first glance the maturity of a possible trophy bull. Body appearance is integral in assessing a Eland's maturity and a few characteristics are to be considered.

Weighing nearly twice as much as a female, mature bulls will really stand out in comparison due to their large, muscular and massive looking bodies. Female Eland have smaller bodies and much slimmer necks. Mature males also have a much larger and prominent dewlap on their throat. Females wear a tannish color coat while older mature males have a darker tan coat with a blueish gray tinge to it and even sometimes have areas of hair loss (this is normal).


01. Here is an example of a fully matured Eland bull with a
massive body, thick neck, large dewlap, blueish gray coat and
dense forehead brush.


02. Clearly distinguishable from a bull is the mature
Eland female with a smaller body, slender neck, petite dewlap
and tan coat.

In bachelor herds, among other grown males, a mature bull will stand out by body mass and darker coat color. These are the same factors that make them stand out among females but they will be harder to discern as the differences will be less noticeable among other males.


03. Here is a grown Eland bull without any of those strong
characteristics of maturity in his body yet.

The most significant factor to look at to differentiate between Eland bulls is their neck girth, as they mature their necks get "fatter" growing so large over time that they bulge out on either side of the neck.


04. Here is an example of an old Eland bull with a thick and
bulging neck.

Another distinctive characteristic which can be seen only on some older males is the presence of a very distinctive brush or 'rug' of hair on their foreheads. The brush is most often brown varying in color from very dark to reddish and can be very thick and prominent to almost non-existent. One thing is clear if a Eland has a heavy brush it is a reliable sign of maturity but lack of one does not mean it is not mature.


05. Here is an example of an old bull with a very dark brown
dense brush.


06. Here is an example of a spectacular bull with no apparent

A great indicator of a very old Eland bull is a massive body with bulging neck and horns that appear proportionately small on the body (this does not mean that the horns are actually small). This visual effect only occurs when the bull reaches it's maximum body size and the horns are well worn down. This can be used as a guide even when a Eland bull is observed standing alone.


07. Here is an example of giant body size dwarfing horn size
perception and of course a "fat" bulging neck.
I call this look "Eland on steroids".

Now that we have dealt with the body aspect of judging the Eland maturity we can begin to discuss the horn criteria.

Eland bulls usually carry well matched symmetrical spiral horns with prominent visible raised and steady ridges along the two twists. The spread of the horns can vary greatly, from a narrow almost parallel look to a "V" shape. Most often, mature bulls have considerably thicker bases, more massive and straighter horns compared to female horns that are significantly thinner with less apparent ridges and a tendency to become crooked the older they get. Although female Eland horns can appear longer they are usually not hunted for their horns.

Using Rowland Ward Methods Of Measurement for spiral-horned antelopes (Method 8) does require taking the spread measurement from horn to horn into account. However, using Safari Club International Methods Of Measurement for spiral-horned animals (Method 2) does NOT require taking the spread measurement into account.

Judging Eland horn size simply based on the visual appearance of the length of the horns can be quite misleading. There are three factors that need to be taken into account in judging the horns of the Eland. A combination of thickness, prominent ridges and length are the key to an amazing trophy.

Probably the first thing that hunters are conditioned to notice and look at is the straight out length of the horns but this is a mistake. A longer thinner horn can measure significantly less than a shorter thick horn.



08. Here is a terrific example of how deceptive just looking
at straight up horn length can be and how much measurement
you can gain in the thickness of the horns and prominent ridges.
Using the Eland face as a guide you can clearly see that the
straight up horn length of the Eland taken by bow appears
quite a bit longer, however the Eland in the top picture is
actually 8 inches longer not taking into account the
measurement of the base.

Eland in top picture measures an impressive
right horn 42 inch (106 cm) - right base 12 3/4 inch (32.5 cm)
Record book #3 in Namibia when taken

Eland in bottom picture measures
right horn 34 inch (86.5 cm) - right base no measurement

Actually the first thing that should be looked at and evaluated is the thickness of the entire horn starting at the base and maintaining girth from the base up into the horn itself. Looking at the bases alone is not enough, because where you will gain in the horn measurement is the continued thickness. If the horn tapers quickly upward from the base it will loose several inches and not score as high as thickness throughout.



09. Here is two examples of horns that are clearly thick through
the length and both will score well however the top Eland
with the more prominent ridges will score a lot higher.

Now we can began to look at the importance of the prominence of the protruding ridges along the twists. How much these ridges protrude will make a big difference in the measurement of the horns, often adding several inches for a trophy with prominent ridges. In my opinion, this factor along with the girth of the horn is where most really impressive Eland trophies are made, add to that some length and you've got an exceptional trophy. Ridges however can sometimes be difficult to see at long distances which is often the case when hunting Eland, so depending upon the circumstances it may be challenging to use this as a criteria.


10. Here is an example of prominent protruding ridges along
the twists of the horn. The mass of the horn itself is quite
average on this Eland, however the extreme protrusion of
the ridges and the above average length give this eland
greater measurement.
right horn 38 1/2 inch (98 cm) - right base 11 1/3 inch (29 cm)

Usually if the tips of the horns are still very sharp, the Eland is either still growing or is just in its' prime. When Eland bulls horns are past their prime they tend to loose length and their horns, on the way down, will often appear much thicker at the top as their tips wear down even appearing somewhat blunt with advanced age.

In terms of trophy size when it comes to mature Eland bulls, an exceptional trophy is 40 inch plus (101.6 cm). I would say that horns above 37 inches (94 cm) make for an amazing trophy, horns above 34 inches (86.36 cm) make for a great trophy, horns above 30 inches (76.2 cm) make for a good trophy and horns below that make for a beautiful trophy and great memories!

On a personal note an amazing Eland trophy isn't about horn length for me at all, but it's in the character of an old Eland Bull. The Eland is special in that as it ages, it transforms physically as a few other species do to show qualities of age that I find desirable in an exceptional trophy. I would much prefer an old "blue" bull, with thick brush, gigantic bulging neck and seriously worn down thick horns than one that scores well. It's just personal preference.


11. Here is what I'm talking about, beautiful!

I included numbers for each picture if anyone wanted to comment or refer to an image...

Note that trophy size can differ from region to region and what may easily be found in one area may be unexpectedly large in another. As with most animals there is always localities where the bigger trophies tend to be found.
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